Picturesque Divalakada | Sunday Observer

Picturesque Divalakada

14 March, 2021

This week I chose to write about ‘Arambe-gedera’ of Divalakada – a beautiful rustic village, adjoining Botalegama in Bulathsinhala in the Kalutara district, rich in greenery, fresh air and beautiful landscapes. It may sound awkward, but ‘Arambe-gedara’ means a home situated in a grove. It is where the renowned journalist and newspaper editor, the late Gunadasa Liyanage was born, on April 22, 1930, and grew up as a village lad.

He had his primary education at the Botalegama Mixed School and later entered Sri Paali College, Horana to pursue his higher education. Botalegama and Divalakada are important to me for two reasons – one, Botalegama is where I was born and grew up as a village boy. The second is its adjoining village of Divalakada, where the author, journalist and newspaper editor, Gunadasa Liyanage was born.

Reaching this scenic destination is not only an adventure in itself but also a reminiscence of my nostalgic memories of four decades, as a village lad. Perhaps, it is because I grew up in Botalegama surrounded by mountains and paddy fields, that I am always enticed by them. I visited Divalakada frequently, as a boy and used to meet Gunadasa Liyanage at his ancestral home – Arambe-gedera.

Recently, I visited Divalakada again and found it completely changed, compared to what it was 30 years ago. I parked the vehicle on the roadside and walked the few yards crossing the paddy fields and reached Arambe-gedara surrounded by a thick grove.“Liyanage’s four children who live in Colombo, never forget to visit their father’s legacy frequently and they also visit us whenever they are here” an elderly villager said. Divalakada, is a historically important ancient village situated in Bulathsinhala. It is mentioned in an ancient chronicle, known as ‘Rajawaliya’ and is also described in Sunethra, a historical novel written by W.A. Silva.

Prince Veediya Bandara

The brownish water of the Kalu Ganga flows west of Divalakada. Kalugala, a hillock overlooking the valley of Kalu Ganga is a tribute to the battle known as ‘Pelada Satana’ between Prince Veediya Bandara and Prince Tikiri believed to have taken place in Divalakada. The warrior prince Veediya Bandara and his queen Sooriyadevi who fled from Seethawaka mustered an Army and weapons at Pelada in Palindanuwara and led a battle against the Portuguese during the latter part of the 16th century.

According to historical notes, Prince Veediya Bandara led a battle against King Mayadunne, the ruler of Seethawaka and the Portuguese and attacked them from time to time, camping at Pelada. After the death of Queen Sooriyadevi, Prince Veediya Bandara married the sister of Prince Tikiri Kumaru (King Mayadunne’s daughter).

King Mayadunne also led a battle against Prince Veediya Bandara due to his cruelty to his daughter. The battle between Prince Veediya Bandara and Prince Tikiri is believed to have taken place at Divalakada near Bulathsinhala. Even today, testimony to this historic event could be witnessed in the village where a generation of blacksmiths who made weapons for the battle and their descendants still live.

The leftovers of the cast iron for making weapons in ancient times known as ‘yabora’ (black gravels) are found in some places in the village. Some ancient coins were also found by villagers in Divalakada while digging the land for cultivation and these coins were handed over to the Department of Archaeology.

Divalakada boasts of a long history and folklore about its origins. In ancient times, this wooded area comprised marshy lands known as Diyavalakada which eventually became Divalakada, which is easier on the tongue. Liyanage loved his rustic village Divalakada and its simple villagers and found a rare peace and quietness there. In the early days, when his mother was alive, he used to come to Divalakada every weekend to visit her. He constructed a small but beautiful house with quite a large pond full of water lilies in the foothill of a wooded hill where his ancestral home ‘Arambe-gedera’ stood.

I have witnessed Liyanage accompanied by his family members spending the holiday and enjoying the rural setting of Divalakada. The placid big pond, was a sought after place for Liyanage’s children, especially, the two young sons, Srimath and Vajira, who are both journalists, today. They would jump into the clear waters from the bund to swim and splash.

Gunadasa Liyanage

The name Gunadasa Liyanage needs no introduction in Sri Lanka’s literary world. During his lifetime he has boosted the publishing of literary works of ordinary men and women, whose lives were made extraordinary with his pen. Liyanage’s writings were simple, with much insight and sincerity, with a touch of psychology.

His stories portrayed characters in all their glory, with humour and satire; he brought out the reality of their lives in a small rural village. Liyanage rose to become the Editor of a few national newspapers and magazines, such as ‘Kalpana’ from the ranks of a provincial reporter. This was due to his perseverance and commitment to journalism. Working under the well-known newspaper editor, D.B. Danapala, he excelled in both Sinhala and English languages in the field of journalism and was once Sri Lanka’s correspondent of the now defunct ‘Asiaweek’ newsmagazine which was published in Hong Kong.

He also excelled in the field of broadcasting and television in the recent past and was presented a Kalasuri title by the government. The towering trees surrounding Aramba-gedera still loom in the backdrop of the lush greenery and paddy fields. The figure of Gunadasa Liyanage who was raised in a rural setting still reverberates in the hearts of the villagers of Divalakada.